Cape Town is Africa’s most popular tourist destination. This iconic city, the second largest in South Africa, is famous for its natural beauty, amazing views of Table Mountain and Cape Point, superb nightlife, sports venues for rugby union and association football and all-round family fun activities.
Cape Town was initially established by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for ships bound to the Far East and India. A permanent European settlement was formed in 1652 (Castle of Good Hope) which soon became a cultural and economic powerhouse. Despite setbacks and competition from other South African cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town is today a grand, vibrant and multicultural city of about 3.5 million. It was home to many leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, some of which were imprisoned on the nearby Robben Island and Nelson Mandela made his first public speech at Cape Town town hall upon his release in 1990. In common with other vibrant cities on the planet, Cape Town has a twin personality, with wealth and economic prosperity side by side with a degree of poverty and even some violence.
There are over seventy hills above 300m within the city limits and the peninsula is a huge mountainous spine, ending at Cape Point in the Atlantic. Table Mountain and the vertical Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head mountainous cliffs surround the city. There, the City Bowl, formed between Table Bay and the mountains, is a natural amphitheatre.This dramatic natural terrain interacts with weather systems and affects the local climate, causing occasional heavy downpours and a cool but very pleasant sub-tropical/Mediterranean winters and warm, dry summers.
Cape Town was recently named as the most entrepreneurial city in South Africa and hosted nine of the 2010 World Cup matches. There is an ongoing and booming building expansion programme and real estate market.
Most of the dramatic locations around the city are accessible either by hire car or hiking. There are many lovely beaches, with those on the Atlantic side being cooler, whereas the False Bay coast is very much warmer. There are many superb restaurants and facilities on both coasts. Simon Town’s Atlantic Boulder beach is known for its colony of African penguins and there are surfing competitions every year.
Attractions such as the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, the Two Oceans Aquarium, excellent shopping venues and the Cape Dutch style architectural heritage make the city unique. A thriving arts scene, the exotic and extensive Botanical gardens and several street carnivals (e.g. the minstrels parade in January) add to the rich atmosphere. Day trips from Cape town include the Cape winelands and whale watching.
Posted : Thursday, March 24th, 2011 at 12:00
Karen Bryan is the founding editor of the UK based, multi author Europe a la Carte Blog which features Europe travel tips about the best places to visit in Europe.